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Taking Music Seriously - Or NOT

Rating: 7 votes, 1.43 average.
In 1981 the great British euphoniumist Barrie Perrins sent me a letter with some interesting enclosures. One had to do with jokes. It was an article he wrote for the magazine The Musician and was titled "It's a Funny World."

The last part of the article dealt with musical jokes, and it told one of my favorite stories. It's a favorite partly because it points out the ease with which some reviewers (and "regular" people) assume something is good just because it's new. Here is the section:

"On 5 June 1961 the BBC's Third Programme included a 'Mobile for tape and percussion' by an allegedly brilliant Polish composer, Pietr Zak.

"Although taken seriously by several professional music critics representing national journals, the BBC ultimately admitted that this item was actually a random collection of sounds from percussion instruments plus electronic noises, i.e. not a serious composition at all! A co-producer of that programme later commented, 'That fake music can be indistinguishable from the genuine is a reflection on certain trends in present-day composition.' Perhaps the late Colonel Frederick G. Hawkes had comparable thoughts when he said, 'We used to play wrong notes accidentally; now they write them all in!'"
(The Musician, 26 January 1980, page 54. "It's a Funny World" by Barrie Perrins)

Keeping that in mind, we should perhaps be more confident in our opinions of music and judge it by how good it sounds vs. how good ____ says it should sound.

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  1. Snorlax's Avatar
    There seems to be a musically politically-correct unwillingness to say that some emperors have no clothes!!
  2. paulmaybery's Avatar
    I believe it was Mark Twain, who once remarked about that German composer we all love to hate. "I have it on very good account that Wagner's music is really much better than it sounds."